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Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 - What A Year

So what a year 2016 has been; ending with news of the deaths of George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Rick Parfitt and Liz Smith but also so many more greats who left us earlier in the year - Caroline Aherne, Sir Terry Wogan, Prince, David Bowie, Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Pete Burns, Gene Wilder, David Gest, Denise Robertson, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Daniels to name but a few. Many of them died younger than you'd expect. So sad.

It's been a trying year for us if I'm honest. We lost a very close friend not so long ago, and we had a 10 day stint in hospital with Sasha which was pretty scary at the time (she seems fully recovered now, phew!). We also had to make an extra house move to a new rental property which we hadn't really planned - luckily our new landlords are fab. We are keeping our fingers crossed that 2017 finally sees us moving to our new 'forever home' - and hopefully over the next week I'll find the time to do a little Renovation update before everything gets extra crazy in the New Year..

There's always ups to go with the downs though and so I decided to do a little round up to remind us of the good which happened to us in 2016. It's one of the huge advantages of writing a blog, that fab outings and all sorts of achievements can be recorded and looked back on...

January


2016 saw some early ice skating for the family, but had already started in style for me as I went to the extra special New Year's Eve concert which Bryan Adams held in London.

I've loved his music for years and been to many of his concerts but I can honestly say that was my favourite gig ever. I then started our renovation project in earnest over the next few weeks, meeting builders for quotes. Let's skip over the fact that it took until August to start work on the house...
I also attended a Big Write session at Sasha's school, but I was so overwhelmed by it that it took me until almost the end of the year to blog about it! On here, I had a look back at why I first started blogging (now nearly 8 years ago!), and at the end of January we went to hear Tamsin perform in the Young Voices concert at the O2 with her classmates - an amazing experience.

February


A sad start to this month as I blogged about the loss of one of our gorgeous cats, Stampy. I then got to attend a Flora blog event, and we reviewed some lovely Joules dresses for the girls. In broad sunshine no less!

We only had one night of snow in the whole of 2016 - the weather sure is strange these days.
Off the blog I ran my first course for parents of children with Pathological Demand Avoidance and hopefully helped a few families along the way. I also learnt how to ski with the fab group called Snowbility on a 6 week course very kindly offered by the local Carers group - I must ski again this year, it was fab! Tamsin went on an overnight camp with Guides and we went to watch the totally brilliant Gang Show.

March


There was a lot of stripping over at our new house this month, as I fought my way through a large variety of styles and textures:

We enjoyed watching our eldest perform in a show called Histeria put on by her drama group, Best Theatre Arts. In blogging terms I covered the new show about autism which was being show on BBC1, The A-Word, and I wondered whether Academies are a good idea for children with SEND?

April


April is always Autism Awareness month and this year I wrote a series of posts looking back over the very beginning of my blog. We had our first visit of the year to Center Parcs - we've been so lucky to go to Center Parcs twice this year, which made up for having to cancel our family holiday in France at May half-term due to Sasha's illness.

The highlight of the month for Tamsin was when she got to try out the Young Driver experience as a review for the blog - not many 10 year olds get to do that!
Tamsin also got fixed braces for the first time in this month, not such a highlight, although she's coped amazingly well with them ever since. I was thrilled to be able to attend the adoption ceremony for my nephew; my brother's little boy joined the family the previous year but it was lovely to make it official. Right at the end of the month I took Tamsin and her best friend for an early birthday trip to see the Matilda musical in London, a lovely special outing for all of us.

May


In May I received the brilliant news that I had been shortlisted for a BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Award. This was totally unexpected and of course I thank each and every one of you who nominated me. I wrote a blog post about the difference between PDA and ODD this month, which was very popular and is currently the fourth most read post ever on my blog.
I actually got to go and see Bryan Adams in concert for the second time this year, lucky me, and we went on a blog review visit to Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour. That was perfectly timed, as Sasha had missed a class trip to the same place due to being ill the week previously, and even though it was an evening and later when we went, she thoroughly enjoyed the whole place. It's truly magical, I'd recommend it for everyone.

We spent plenty of time in the garden of our new house, playing with water balloons and enjoying the plants. The end of the month passed by in a bit of a haze as I ended up in A and E with Sasha late one Saturday evening, after I'd spent the day at a Tots 100 BlogCamp in Birmingham. Sasha and I ended up staying in 2 different hospitals over the next ten days and we were extremely thankful for the brilliant care Sasha received. We were amazed at how well Sasha handled everything - including a CT scan, which was fairly horrendous.

June


Eventually Post Streptococcal Glomerulonephritis was diagnosed in hospital for Sasha and we were relieved to be finally allowed home where she continued to recover.
There was uproar in the world of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) over on Twitter as a lawyer foolishly boasted about how he'd really won a case which the parents thought they had won - complicated story but details are in my post about Baker Small, which remains the second most read post on my blog (most read of all time is my one about giant bubbles!). Sasha had a big roller skating party, and Tamsin took another friend to see the fab Bugsy Malone stage show in London.
This month I attended the big BritMums Live blogging event in London and met up with loads of my blogging buddies. This was shortly after the shock news of the year about Brexit (which I'd rather try and forget about personally).


















July


July was possibly the best month of the year. Full on, as it was the last few weeks in primary school for our eldest, so I was kept busy making a photo Yearbook for everyone, and there were plenty of 'last' assemblies, discos and the like. The highlight had to be when Tamsin starred in the school production of the Lion King as Simba (one of them!) *proud mum alert*.

This month I had a night away with some brilliant mums who 'get it', and I also got to see Take That in Hyde Park with my old Uni mates, so I was definitely winning.
Blog wise I took the girls to the London Aquarium, and I completed my first year of writing SEND round-ups for BritMums. Sasha was still having regular blood tests (at home, luckily), Tamsin went shopping for her new secondary school uniform and we experienced our first camping weekend away as a family, with lots of other lovely families we knew...

August


I'd like to say August was quiet, but I'd be lying. We managed a trip to the seaside, to visit my parents in my hometown, and spend time with the girls' cousins. Much fun was had at the Pleasure Beach, and on the actual beach:


I also got to see Bryan Adams in concert for the third time this year! This month our builder started work on our Renovation, and towards the end of the month we moved house - to a new rental, our unexpected extra move. I also took Tamsin to see the West End version of the Lion King - definitely amazingly spectacular, although I preferred the version with Tamsin in it of course...
On the blog I came clean about the not-so-easy day out to the Aquarium, and wondered whether blogging anything at all was a good idea.... looks like I just can't kick the habit though!

September


Sasha went back to school a day earlier than Tamsin started her new school, so I took eldest out to review Shrek's Adventure. I'm happy that the first term at secondary school went very well for Tamsin - it's been a steep learning curve for her but lots of fun too.
I was quite overwhelmed to be invited up on stage as a Finalist in the Mad Blog Awards; thank you so much again to everyone who voted for me, it really does mean a lot.


Towards the end of the month I attended my first Blog On blogging event in Manchester, and I took Sasha to the secondary schools open evenings. Much thinking to do on that topic over the coming year.

October


I kicked off October with a blogging baking and photography event in London and then wrote about Challenging Behaviour and PDA - now my third most read post ever. Sasha was doing much better than we were expecting at the beginning of year five, and I noted one of my favourite achievements from the year in Writing Progress.

Sasha also started an after school cookery club called Little Cookies, and has loved it so much that she has been able to participate without extra support, which is fab. She also surprised us by asking to join the weekend drama club which her big sister attends, and has done amazingly well there too. Any out of school activity is a huge achievement for Sasha, although there have been a few bumps along the way.  A new Skylanders series called Imaginators was released and I loved how much it fired Sasha's imagination.We received a new tumble dryer to review, which was pretty handy considering our old one was one of those on the fire risk list...
The National Autistic Society held a conference about Pathological Demand Avoidance and I was pleased to be able to help out at it. It's always great to see more people learning and understanding PDA. Cold Feet was back on TV this month, yay, and Tamsin started rehearsing for her Christmas show on stage, the Wind in the Willows.


November


In November we had more news which many of us would rather forget as the US elections took place. I started a new series called SEND Stars on my blog, introducing other bloggers writing about Special Needs, and I returned to my series called 'This is our PDA Story' where guest posters explain how living with PDA is for them.
I started looking at kitchens for our new house (exciting) and we had fun ice skating as a family - an early start to the festive season!

We had a weekend at the Center Parcs Winter Wonderland at Elveden Forest, and there were many more show rehearsals for Tamsin. The month ended with a playdate here for Sasha's new boyfriend (a short lived affair I think, sadly...) and the traditional making of the wreath at a school event for our front door. Some things never change, thankfully!

December


Well, where can I start? This month has been super busy as I'm sure it is for everyone, and we've crammed lots in.

We did all the usual December activities like going to see the local panto, putting decorations up and making Christmas cupcakes. I reviewed a photobook and phone cover as well as some toys, pens and the fabulous Winter Wonderland, where I was so happy to finally get a meet up with my old blogging friend Steph. I also met up with lovely Gretta and enjoyed a wander through the Leicester Square Christmas market.

We received a fab book in the post - Children with Autism Love Life - and Sasha is on the front cover of it! Slightly tricky though, as we've not yet been able to have the big Autism conversation with her... but I'm hoping this may help when we do, possibly at some point this coming year.

I wrote a post about strategies for PDA and so far it is the 5th most read post on my blog ever - my blog plans for 2017 include more help like this whenever I can.
Tamsin carried on with her show rehearsals for Wind in the Willows and began appearing on stage from 14th December, acting brilliantly in seven shows - the final one was last night, phew.



We drove to spend Christmas day with one set of grandparents and the other set visited us here a couple of times over the festive period, and both loved watching Tamsin in her show. Sasha gave me the most amazing Christmas present - ten A4 pages of another handwritten story, called Operation Robot Asteroid. Her second ever long story and we're hoping there will be more to come. We pretty much finished up the year with a fab party at a friend's house - where Sasha had us all dancing to the soundtrack for Trolls, a film which we've been to see twice at the cinema already and will be going to again this coming week. A definite feel-good movie, I recommend it to everyone as the perfect end to the year/great way to start the New Year.

Wow. If you've got to the end of this list, I think you deserve a knight- or damehood. I'm thinking it could take me hours to go back and include all the photos I'd like to... but I'd still end up leaving some out. So there's just a handful of the happiness shown here. Lots more in my Siblings posts which I will continue with next year - love them!


2016 has been amazing as ever, and I can only just begin to imagine a little of what 2017 has in store for us. Hoping for some amazing times for all our readers too. Cheers!




P.S. I have 1,599 followers on my Facebook page - anyone fancy popping over there and making it a round number for me to finish the year on?!
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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

SAAL Photobook (Review)

I'm a big fan of photos and happy memories generally, so I was delighted to have the chance to review a SAAL photobook recently. It's fair to say that I love everything about Christmas, so I decided to create a photobook which included all our snapshots from Christmas times since our eldest was first born. Here's the finished version of what I created, and I can honestly say we were very impressed with the quality.



The process was actually super simple; you start by downloading some free software onto your computer and from that point on you have total control over what you place where.

First decision to make is what size and format your book will be:


You can then choose if you'd like your pages matte or glossy, and your cover padded, and whether you'd like a gift box (these really do make a perfect present in my view).


There are many set templates and page designs such as those shown below, but you can simply drop each photo individually onto a page and size it as you wish, which I personally found much easier and quicker.




You can add extra pages as you go along, which is always handy when you just can't bear to cut any photos out... One other aspect of creating the SAAL photobook which I really appreciated was that you don't have to upload photos individually first. The software just searches the folders on your computers so the photos are all ready for you to drag in as you choose.

SAAL offer a wide range of products alongside the photobooks, from prints and calendars to cards and gifts:




Great quality, easy to use software. You can find them on Facebook at Saal Digital UK and I'd definitely say they're worth a follow! I'm thinking that I'll be back to make printed versions of my #siblingsproject photos each year...

If you're quick and can order one before 31st December 2016, there's a £15 off voucher - look at the top of the page banner at www.saal-digital.co.uk/photobooks


Disclosure: we were given a voucher in exchange for an honest review of their site and product; all opinions given are our own.


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Friday, 23 December 2016

SEND Stars 7

I'm very pleased to be bringing you number 7 in my series of SEND Stars just before Christmas. I'll be taking a break until the New Year after this one, but there are more to come, have no fear!

All of the bloggers featured in my SEND Stars series have a life which is filled with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in some way, and my very basic questions are barely scratching the surface of the complicated lives they lead. I know that they would love a bit of extra support generally, so if you can pop over and like their Facebook page, or read and comment on a post, it is all much appreciated.
Drumroll now please for number seven, who provided a verry fitting photo for this time of year:



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Who are you? 

I'm Joy, also known as PinkOddy.

Who else is in your family and what are their ages?

My husband and four boys 19, 13, 9 and 7.

Which members of your family have SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) or additional needs, and what are those needs? 

19 year old has Aspergers Syndrome and actually he is doing really well and is at University. He struggles with personal hygiene (but that could be normal at that age right?) and communication really – especially if he doesn’t know people. He seems to be getting by very nicely with the support he has there which includes a mentor who helped him also sort out things like registering with a doctor. 

13 year old we now believe has Autistic Traits. It is all too raw to talk about. 
7 year old has Sensory Processing Disorder and he needs his sensory input to be balanced right, and he needs patience and support. He now has an EHCP as I first got him a Statement of Special Educational needs when he was at preschool. There is a belief that the professionals felt him too young to “label” as Autistic because he has some imaginative play. 

Is there an official diagnosis and if so, what is it, at what age was it given and by who? 

Only the oldest and I had to fight for that until he was 10. It was given by a paediatrician. 


If no diagnosis yet, have you seen any professionals with your concerns? 

We had a DISCO (editor's note: this is a test, not a dancing event...!) eventually for the 7 year old when they decided it was not Autism and the Paediatrician said he has Sensory Processing Disorder with help from the Occupational Therapist. CYPS (formerly CAMHss) said the 13 year old sounds to have traits of autism but then discharged us without any further assessment. 


Can you list the job roles of everyone you've been involved with on your SEND journey so far?


I don’t think I could, there’s been so many. 

Are your children in school (if so, what type of school) or home educated? 

Yes they are in mainstream.     


What would you like others outside the SEND community to know about your child's condition? 

That it isn’t something he can chose to have/ be affected by or not. 


Tell us a fact or funny story about you or your life which is totally unrelated to SEND..... 

We were visiting the hospital one day and my husband really needed a wee – and he read the sign NO FLOWERS as no flow-ers. 



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To visit Joy's blog 
The Sensory Seeker please go to thesensoryseeker.com.

On all other social media you can follow her at @Pinkoddy.




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